The New Place
January 21, 2010 5:18 PM   Subscribe

Help me make my first purchase for my apartment...

I will be moving into my first apartment and would like to spend some Christmas money I received.. I have a budget of $200, and am looking for any suggestions of what I should invest in for my first apartment.

I've been considering a food processor or some nice towels, but am open to any suggestions be it the kitchen or bedroom or living room. What have you bought for your living space that has made your days happier or easier? Thank you for the suggestions!
posted by SarahElizaP to Home & Garden (41 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Internet service.
posted by Splunge at 5:21 PM on January 21, 2010

I think this depends a lot on what you already have. What are you starting with? I love my food processor, but I would definitely get a nice toaster oven first.
posted by dawnoftheread at 5:24 PM on January 21, 2010

I have purchased many things for my apartment, but far and away the best use of my money was a countertop dishwasher. It attaches to your sink to get it's water and drains into the same sink. This was one of the best purchases I've ever made.
posted by pseudonick at 5:25 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Internet service will be provided, and I'm basically starting off with nothing since I've been living in a dorm. Thanks for the responses!
posted by SarahElizaP at 5:26 PM on January 21, 2010

Microwave. If you already have one then get a really nice duvet.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:26 PM on January 21, 2010

posted by Max Power at 5:27 PM on January 21, 2010

A good chef's knife may serve you better than a food processor in the long run.

Also, my wife bought some of these sheets and they're the best thing I've ever slept on.
posted by JV at 5:28 PM on January 21, 2010

Yeah, any chance you can narrow it down a little bit, or maybe tell us more about yourself?

Failing that, $200 worth of booze would be a good start on a well-stocked home bar. Or you could buy a Wii. People like the Wii.
posted by box at 5:29 PM on January 21, 2010

Come to think of it and on second thought, the first major purchase in your first apartment could be a significant thing. And since you describe it that way, it seems like you might be into that. Buy something really nice--nicer than you'd usually buy--something that you will keep for the rest of your life.
posted by box at 5:33 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Go to Target and get one of their big sets of cookware + silverware + plates + bowls + glasses. If you already have those basics, get a blender, toaster, electric tea kettle, water filter pitcher, coffee maker, Tupperware...
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:34 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can get a nice set of pots/pans and a good knife or two with $200. IMO that would be far more valuable than a food processor which is really more of a "nice to have" kitchen item--good pans and knives are key!
posted by shownomercy at 5:34 PM on January 21, 2010

I'm 20 years old, moving into a furnished apartment with a roommate. I'm interested in trying to cook more and I love to bake. I'll need pretty much everything bedroom wise (I'm looking into those sheets JV!) . I have a microwave, but need any sort of kitchen utensils or dinnerware. I've got a TV, Tivo and speakers. Hopefully that helps, if you want me to narrow down some more I can. Thanks!
posted by SarahElizaP at 5:36 PM on January 21, 2010

Good pots and pans, or a good knife. A nice print or other piece you love would also be good, if you want significant but not useful.
posted by jeather at 5:38 PM on January 21, 2010

A really great reading lamp for your bedroom. That's something that won't wear down so fast and will always be flexible and can fit in any living space.

And maybe a great trio of knives.
posted by Mizu at 5:42 PM on January 21, 2010

The first two things I bought when I moved into my first flat were a full length mirror and a toaster. I still use both of them just about daily, 15 years later. (The third thing was doc marten boots, heh). If I was doing it again with a larger budget (i.e. your $200) I'd do the same and add an electric jug and a decent pillow, since with those four things I can get by pretty much anywhere.

Really nice sheets are definitely great and I love mine, but get the basics sorted first. What's going to make your everyday life better?
posted by shelleycat at 5:45 PM on January 21, 2010

Do you have a bed yet? Put the $200 towards buying a better mattress than what you could normally afford.

Life seems brighter with a good mattress. I am not kidding. Tweeting birds will follow you down the street. Babies will smile at you. Invest in the mattress.
posted by castlebravo at 5:46 PM on January 21, 2010

This now-classic article by Mark Bittman (referenced in this AskMe thread) will hook you up with everything you need to be a proficient home chef for less than your allotted budget. I've made a bunch of purchases based off his list and haven't regretted a single one.
posted by eggplantplacebo at 5:50 PM on January 21, 2010 [7 favorites]

A dutch oven so you can make no knead bread. Here is a post dealing with which dutch oven to buy. Here is a askme about no knead bread and dutch ovens.
posted by snowjoe at 6:01 PM on January 21, 2010

When I moved into a furnished apartment a couple of years ago, I didn't realize there was no colander until I needed to strain the spaghetti for dinner. Same with a can opener. I found that the kitchen was ALMOST stocked, but was missing important things that weren't noticeable until two seconds before dinnertime. Check for little important things - big spoons? Tongs? A good broom and dustpan? Pot holders?
posted by artychoke at 6:10 PM on January 21, 2010

Anything that will enhance your sleep is a good idea.

I would not buy a set of cookware; better to go open stock for what you'll really use. Ditto with knives. Having said that, a few years ago I bought sets of both! But, they were the smallest: 8-piece for the cookware (including the lids) and 7-piece for the knives. The stockpot makes a good breadbox. But, my first cookware was two open-stock Revere saucepans and a nonstick frying pan. And Gramma's knives (probably from a discount or dime store and pretty old).

If you really want a memorable, enduring and non-consumable my-first-place! sort of thing (which I heartily endorse) go for some nice original art or a small antique, perhaps a chest. This sort of thing is tricky, since you're at a highly mobile age, but it's something to consider.
posted by jgirl at 6:11 PM on January 21, 2010

I would recommend going to a local thrift shop for dishes and whatnot. I know it's exciting to be buying stuff for the first time on your own and I hope I don't sound too lame, but it really doesn't matter at this point if you have, say, really nice dishes. Honestly when I was your age I found it was better not to have really nice dishes, because I moved so many times between then and now that most of my shit inevitably got damaged at some point along the way. Your money will go a lot further.
posted by sickinthehead at 6:20 PM on January 21, 2010

Seconding a duvet, down, preferably. Also, sheets and towels from here: Lifekind.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 6:20 PM on January 21, 2010

A feather mattress (goes on top of your regular mattress) and a big body pillow.
posted by nowmorethannever at 6:22 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Especially if you're interested in doing more cooking, invest in some quality knives - it makes an enormous difference. Here is a set of three excellent knives for $150 - they've served us well.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:43 PM on January 21, 2010

Get a cast iron skillet and a dutch oven. Get some wooden utensils to go along with them.
posted by Loto at 6:46 PM on January 21, 2010

High quality bed stuff is the best long term bang per dollar. Get a set of 1200 thread count or higher combed Egyptian cotton sheets. You and anyone you manage to get in your bed will thank you.
posted by Babblesort at 7:04 PM on January 21, 2010

Art that makes you happy. You should be able to find some artists at school that are reasonably priced. Hang it where you will see it every morning you wake up.
posted by saucysault at 7:13 PM on January 21, 2010

As you decide what you want to buy, let me suggest something: unless it's something really functional, don't buy things for your bedroom. Try to have as little stuff in your bedroom as you can.

Through college, my bedroom was usually filled to the brim with stuff, because that room was the only space I had. It took me a while to realize it, and to make this change, but I've discovered that having only things in my bedroom necessary for the activities I do there (clothes, medication, alarm clock, the Drawer of Intimate Things, and the giant suitcase I can store nowhere else) is part of the luxury of really being an adult.

I have room to breathe, and I feel like my bedroom is truly a retreat. I have a bed, a dresser, a vanity, and a bookshelf (which holds the things I need for my morning routine). No desk. I compensate for the lack of stuff by having lots of art on the walls. There's still visual variety, but the space feels very neat, even when things aren't quite in place.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:14 PM on January 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's not a kitcheny thing, but I bought an antique vanity that matched all my hand-me-down furniture that I'd cobbled together from my relatives. (We have a long history of this massive set of furniture that has been around since the 1920s but no one really knows where it came from and it's damn near indestructible.)

It was over $200, but I use it every single day and I absolutely adore it. It was a completely random find so I suggest just waiting until you find something that clicks for you, but might be something where it's more than you wanted to spend on a particular item. And then, you can buy it with confidence.
posted by sperose at 7:34 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with the chef's knife. Living on your own will likely involve a lot more cooking, and your life will be all the better for having one really awesome knife. Also get a sharpener, so if your roommate uses your knife and gets it dull you can get it back to that *snik*!
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 7:43 PM on January 21, 2010

I would get a refurbished KitchenAid Mixer. I've had a factory refurb for a few years now, and it's great.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:44 PM on January 21, 2010

I have moved nine times in the last seven years. I can not tell you how often I have replaced common kitchen items like dishes and silverware. However, something I HAVE moved, religiously, from place to place is a set of crystal wine glasses that a friend got me. They are beautiful, and I will enjoy them for a lifetime. I place a lot of significance on recognizing moments, and toasting to life in glasses that make that fancy *ping* is awesome. A set of gorgeous wine glasses might make a special addition to your new kitchen....You'll always remember when you bought them. Congrats on your first real apartment!
posted by missmary6 at 8:03 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

chefs knife, pairing knife, large pot, small sauce pot, frying pan, baking sheet, two mixing bowls, measuring cups, measuring spoons, and some wooden spoons/spatulas are all you really need in the kitchen

One of those suction cup things for hanging your stuff up in the shower is nice

a rug for by the door for dirty shoes is nice

a humidifier is often a surprisingly nice thing
posted by rebent at 10:48 PM on January 21, 2010

Why don't you hold onto the money for a bit? I find when I first move into a new place, it takes a while to get adjusted and figure out what I really need.
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:22 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

I agree that the first thing you think of to buy is not going to be the thing you're going to super-want 6 months from now, so hanging on to the cash until you have a better idea of what you need is a good idea.

This question inspired me to think about what I have now (age 34) from my first apartment (age 22) and I realized that the answer is "not much". All the cookware and sheets have been upgraded; the futon and warm fluffy comforter that I loved are now guest-stuff; the houseplant lasted about 8 years but it's dead now. I don't think you were asking this in a sentimental "first apartment purchase" kind of way, to find something to treasure for years to come, but if that's the case, go for art, preferably art made by somebody in your town.

Otherwise, yes, go ahead and do a cookware set, or a bed-linens set. Something you will need, and will probably eventually upgrade from, but will still be handy to have as backup. Or, depending on how "furnished" the apartment is, buy a bathroom - choose your shower curtain, mats, holders, towels, cute little trash can, and a pretty thing for the wall, and you can move that with you to any apartment you go to and make it "look like home".

As another idea, think of something you learned to appreciate in college that you didn't grow up with, and rebelliously establish yourself. My mom was a "sheets and blankets and a bedspread" mom; I spent a vacation in college at a friend's house where it was "duvet with flannel cover" and it was such a conversion experience that I bought a fluffy comforter for my first winter.
posted by aimedwander at 6:34 AM on January 22, 2010

mr desjardins is the cook in the family, and he would probably choose his kitchenaid mixer and his chicago cutlery knives over me.

Which is fine, because I'd choose the flannel sheets and down comforter over him.

Another idea, since you are probably living out of boxes: a closet organizer.
posted by desjardins at 6:45 AM on January 22, 2010

Whenever I move, the first thing I buy is a shower curtain. Not that I plan to make that my first purchase for any important reason, it just works out that way. But it's happened enough times by now that I recognize it as Part Of The Process.

If it's nonessentials you're looking for, my home theater system was one of the best "frivolous" purchases I've ever made to improve my living space. Just find a decent 5.1 receiver and buy some good satellite speakers and a sub for it. Even with a crappy TV the audio makes movies awesome. I enjoy playing music through the day as well. It really helped make my house into a home.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:05 AM on January 22, 2010

a decent vaccuum.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:59 AM on January 22, 2010

oh and a membership to cosco or some other bulk food supplier. Times this by 5 million if you live with roommates and can pool moneys.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:59 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the great answers everyone, I'm going to mark a few that really spoke to me.
posted by SarahElizaP at 9:56 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't buy good pots and pans if you have roommates, btw. Actually don't buy anything nice if you have roommates!

Costco membership is a great idea.

Congrats on your first place btw!
posted by radioamy at 5:55 PM on January 23, 2010

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